We finally made our way up to Jasper National Park! Jasper is the largest park in the Canadian Rockies and a UNESCO world heritage site along with Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho.
April is a favorite time of year for the locals in Jasper, so we decided to visit in April to experience the park like the locals do. It was perfect because the weather just started to turn, but the park wasn’t full of visitors. On top of that, you can enjoy both winter and summer sports on the same day like rock climbing and ice climbing.
15 UNFORGETTABLE THINGS TO DO IN JASPER NATIONAL PARK
1. Ride the Jasper SkyTram
Once you arrive in Jasper, the SkyTram is a great place to start. The relaxing yet scenic ride gets you to a beautiful lookout over downtown Jasper. As you ascend, the guide talks you through what you’re seeing and once you arrive at the top, you can shop for souvenirs or grab a bite a meal at the restaurant. It’s the restaurant with the best views, and it surprisingly had good food, which we didn’t expect at such a touristy spot. On clear days, you can even see Mt. Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to the shape of the town and compare it to the Jasper logo.
Jasper Skytram, map
2. Summit Whistlers Mountain
While you’re at the top, hike the trail that takes you to the summit of the Whistlers. It’s a steep a hike with a couple of false summits, but definitely worth the view. Plus, with the Skytram, you’re already most of the way there. It usually takes 30-45 minutes and you gain about 200 meters in elevation, but there are plenty of viewpoints and stop along the way.
Fun Fact: The mountain is named after the Hoary Marmots who make a whistling sound.
Whistlers Mountain, map
3. Ride in a Sidecar
Riding in a sidecar is as fun as it sounds. Jasper Motorcycle Tours take groups all around the Jasper area. We first met at their shop in downtown and they outfitted us in all leather. Playing dress up is always fun! After we felt more like bikers, we each hopped in a sidecar or the backseat of the motorcycle and rode around in style. The jackets and vests were even heated, so the ride was also very comfortable.
Pro Tip: If you’ve spent a few days in Jasper already, let them know where you’ve been, so they can take you to a location you might not have seen yet.
610 Patricia St, T0E 1E0, map
They gave me a flowery one, and I told them I needed to look more badass. Am I pulling off the look?
4. Watch the Sunset at Pyramid Lake
Pyramid Lake is such a beautiful spot to watch the sunset. There’s a bridge that takes you onto a small island with seating and short trails – the one everyone takes their photos one.
Pyramid Lake, map
Thanks, Robin of Elite Jetsetter, for this shot!
5. Hike a Trail
There are over 745 miles (1200 km) of hiking trails in Jasper National Park with waterfalls, emerald lakes, and mountains.
Note: If you visit during the turn of the season they won’t be all open yet, so stop by to ask a ranger or visit the information center in town to find out current conditions.
Some popular hikes are:
- Valley of Five Lakes and Wabasso Lake (7.4-mile loop trail, △954 feet, easy)
- Wilcox Pass (5.4-mile loop trail, △1528 feet, easy)
- Athabasca Falls (0.5 miles out & back, △68 feet, easy)
- Sulpher Skyline Trail (4.8 miles out & back, △2129 feet, moderate)
- Edith Cavell Meadow Trail (4.1-mile loop trail, △1473 feet, moderate)
- Maligne Canyon to Old Fort Point Trail (4.2-mile loop trail, △620 feet, moderate)
- Skyline Trail (25.7-mile point to point trail, △5124 feet, strenuous)
- Bald Hills Trail Loop (8.2-mile loop trail, △2299 feet, strenuous)
- Tonquin Valley (44.8-mile point to point trail, △6099 feet, strenuous)
6. Heli Hike
On the way up to Jasper National Park from Calgary, we stopped at the icefields to go on a heli hike with Rockies Heli Canada. We got a birdseye view of the mountains and glaciers, then snowshoed to a half-frozen waterfall. If you’re not into hiking, you can just do a helicopter tour too.
Cline River Heliport, Clearwater County, map
7. Canoe or Kayak on Medicine Lake
We didn’t get to canoe or kayak, but we did stop at the lake. Medicine Lake is unique because it’s not really a lake. It’s actually an area where the Maligne River overflows and fills the surrounding area when the snow melts, and because of that, it is very shallow. It’s something we’ll have to go back and do next time!
Improvement District No. 12, AB, map
8. Ski or Snowboard at Marmot Basin
We took a chance to refresh our snowboarding skills for a day at Marmot Basin. The weather was beautiful on the slopes, and we ended up stripping away most of our layers. You get gorgeous views of the valley around you and all the runs come back to the same spot so you don’t have to worry about getting lost. We had lessons at the beginning, which have been super helpful. I finally got the hang of both heel and toe.
1 Marmot Rd, T0E 1E0, map
photo: Robin of Elite Jetsetter
9. Ice Climb
One of the main reasons we visited Jasper National Park was to try ice climbing for the first time! You have more options for ice climbs if you visit in the middle of winter, but neither of us are fond of the cold. Going in April was perfect for us, and we found some good beginner WI2s and 3s. Our guide, Deryl from Rockaboo Mountain Adventures, taught us good ice climbing technique. We both still prefer regular rock climbing, but it was fun trying something new. We’ll have to give it a few more tries before deciding whether it’s a sport for us.
610 Patricia St, T0E 1E0, map
10. Rock Climb
Rock climbing in Jasper National Park is relatively unknown. We went out with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures, since we don’t do much sport climbing on our own. Our guide, Francois, picked the most scenic spot to climb. Even when we weren’t on the wall, we could sit and enjoy the views of the valley below us. If you’ve never tried climbing before, this is a great place to go for your first time. Francois also recently wrote a guidebook to the area, which you should also check out. It’s a big deal.
610 Patricia St, T0E 1E0, map
11. Wildlife Viewing
Because Jasper National park is so wild, you are sharing the space with the true locals – the animals. You can see caribou, elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, bears, wolves, and more. Spring and fall are the best times to visit for wildlife, and we started to see animals as early as our visit in April.
12. Explore Downtown Jasper
Downtown is full of restaurants, bars, and shops that the locals enjoy. A unique thing about Jasper is that it’s not just another ski town or resort where everyone is a visitor. You get to actually meet the locals. It was great to be based downtown so we could take advantage of the food options around us. Here are a few places you should check out:
- Evil Dave’s Grill, map – loved the food here the most! We had no idea by the name, but it’s actually a nicer restaurant, Order the steak and cowboy sushi.
- Famoso Neapolitan Pizza, map – get the pizza/salad combo
- Coco’s Cafe, map – known for their breakfast burritos
- Wicked Cup, map – great breakfast spot
- De’d Dog Bar & Grill, map – local watering hole
- Jasper Brewing Company, map – you can get a flight to try all their beers
Jasper National Park is a spectacular place to stargaze because it is one of 17 designated Dark Sky Preserves in Canada. Not only that, but it is also the second largest Dark Sky Preserve in the world. It’s also the largest accessible Dark Sky Preserve having a town right inside of it. So whether you want to go far, or just outside of your hotel door, look up at night.
14. Go on a Scenic Drive
Even if you’re not very active, there are so many beautiful views from the road. Honestly, you could probably drive in any direction and see amazing scenery, but here are a few popular scenic routes:
- Icefield Parkway – easygoing road with winding turns and spectacular backdrops
- Highway 16 / Yellowhead Highway – main east-west road through Alberta and you get to see some of the other areas like Spruce Grove and Elk Island National Park
- Maligne Lake Road – perfect drive if you’re looking for wildlife or beautiful photo spots
15. Walk on a Glacier
If you want to get a closer look at the glaciers, hook up with Rockaboo Mountain Adventures. They have a tour that takes you to Athabasca Glacier, where you’ll get a chance to walk through the snow and ice.
610 Patricia St, T0E 1E0, map
WHERE TO STAY
During our visit, we stayed at Marmot Lodge. It was only minutes away from downtown. The suite was super spacious and it was nice to have a big living room to decompress each evening. If you need a night in, you can even eat at the restaurant on site or order food to go. We brought home steak dinners to enjoy one of the nights.
86 Connaught Dr, T0E 1E0, map
ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR YOUR VISIT
- You’ll quickly lose cell service once you leave downtown Jasper, so bring a walkie-talkie if you’re traveling in a group. We loved having our goTenna Mesh so that we could send messages from our phone even without service.
- Most people only see a small part of the park. If you venture off the main roads, you’ll see fewer people.
- Book your campgrounds and hotels early, especially if you’re visiting in the summer.
- There’s a grocery store in town if you want to prep your own meals.
- If you are planning hiking, pick up bear spray and read more about bear safety here.
- Pack layers – During our visit there were days that were much chillier, but then other days we could wear t-shirts. It was good to have options.
- Stay hydrated! Here’s our favorite light water bottle and our favorite insulated water bottle.
- Anytime you’ll be outdoors, we always recommend waterproof hiking shoes (Hers + His) so that you’re ready for any occasion.
- Don’t forget your camera gear, there are a lot of beautiful photos spots. Our set up: camera, 35mm + 70-200mm, tripod, backpack.
- Our hotel had a hot tub and pool that we definitely took advantage of, so don’t forget to pack your bathing suits!
- Banff National Park (232 km / 3 h drive SE, map)
- Edmonton (365 km / 3 h 49 min E, map)
- Calgary (412 km / 4 h 53 min drive SE, map)
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust
ESTHER + JACOB
Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 25 travel blogs in the world. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city every year and currently base themselves in NYC.